Anticipation sizzled in the air as a group of men, women, and children followed a dirt path toward a fenced pasture at Hidden Villa Farm. Located in Los Altos Hill, California, the farm once again offered the opportunity to practice yoga outdoors in the company of goats. As we “yogis” walked into the grassy yard, we were greeted by five goat kids with a volley of “maa-aas.”
Unlike lamb yoga (Diablo Gazette, April 2018) where the wooly classmates were more interested in grazing than the humans contorting their bodies into unusual positions, the kid goats (some only several weeks old), were enamored with the people sharing their space. After soaking up an initial round of petting by the participants, the animals tucked into some serious eating, but they never strayed far from the yogis.
The discipline of yoga is an ancient practice. The specific mixture of physical and mental exercise can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago. The idea of doing yoga in the presence of goats, however, is a new addition to this time-tested practice. The brainchild of freelance photographer and farm owner Lainey Morse offered goat yoga was launched in 2016 during a birthday party in Oregon. Though goat yoga is not as popular in the Bay Area as it is in southern California, goat yoga classes are gaining traction in northern California. Classes have been held in San Francisco, Los Altos Hills, Morgan Hill, Half Moon Bay and Santa Rosa. This is the second year that Hidden Villa’s certified yoga instructor, Jesse Muzzy, has taught both lamb and goat yoga.
“Be aware” said Muzzy during her introductory remarks, “goats like to chew on hair. They are also not housebroken.”
After my fellow classmates finished making a fuss over the four-legged furry animals and settled onto their mats, Jesse guided us through a series of breathing exercises designed to ground us in the present moment. Our vocalizing goats seemed to sense the change in energy and relaxed into grazing mode. Muzzy invited us to focus on the sounds. In addition, to Stellar’s jays chattering and crows cawing, the goats could be heard munching on grasses. The combination created a peaceful environment.
The temperate sunny Sunday morning couldn’t have been more pleasant with puffs of cooling air brushing our cheeks as we moved into lunge position. As class progressed, it was clear some participants were more interested in the goats than the yoga practice. In fact, a number of the attendees had come because they had enjoyed the lamb yoga class offered at Hidden Villa a few months ago and wanted to see if goat yoga would be just as fun.
Fourteen-year-old Anastasia Roeder and her mother, Adelaide Roberts, of Menlo Park preferred the goats over lambs.
“I liked goat yoga better,” said Anastasia, “because unlike during lamb yoga, there were no moms here today and the goats stayed close by.”
As class progressed, yogis were guided into poses that require balance. One required standing with one foot planted on the mat while lifting and placing the other foot on the inside thigh to form the number four. Jesse advised the attendees to be aware of small animals behind us that we could harm if we were to fall backward.
Although goats have a reputation as climbers, none of the young uns’ were inclined to jump up onto people’s backs during the hour-long class. Still, about mid-way through the class, the five “kids” began to get frisky. Some engaged in classic goat play by head-butting each other, while others engaged in a bit of chase. Their antics had attendees chuckling through their yoga poses, including one woman who had a goat scamper across her belly as its rambunctious play went a little overboard.
Naturally curious and willing to eat about anything, several goats pulled clothing out of bags or knocked over water bottles. But no damage was done. One unfortunate yogi did witness firsthand that goats are indeed, not housebroken.
Leddee Hui of San Jose, California said of her goat yoga experience, “I found the goats distracting, but in a good way.”
During the warrior three position, a difficult pose that requires yogis to balance on one foot with the second leg lifted parallel to the ground at hip height and arms stretched out in airplane mode, instructor Jesse jokingly noted that a few yogis were using the goats as balancing props.
The yoga practice lasted 60 minutes followed by 20 minutes of playtime with the five goats. All kidding (ha-ha) aside, the vibe during goat yoga was certainly different than a studio-run yoga class, but this unique experience is certainly a great experience for animal lovers regardless of yoga experience level.
Award-winning and internationally-published author Jill Hedgecock is dedicated to taking readers on high-stakes adventures. Her short stories, personal essays, and nonfiction have appeared in multiple anthologies and magazines. Rhino in the Room is her debut novel. She lives in California with her husband and three adorable dogs.
Image Credits: Diane Walsh
Reprinted with the permission of The Diablo Gazette www.thediablogazette.com